The next position for our 2016 Cleveland Browns training camp preview features the team's tight ends. There are six tight ends on the roster heading into camp. In part 1, we will look at Gary Barnidge, Seth DeValve, and E.J. Bibbs. In part 2, we'll discuss Randall Telfer, Connor Hamlett, and J.P. Holtz.
1. GARY BARNIDGE - STARTING TIGHT END
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 250
Age: 30 | Experience: 9 years
Note: Became a starter in 2015 and flourished ... Had more production in 8th year than previous 7 combined ... New contract through 2018.
I thought Gary Barnidge was an underrated receiving tight end during the couple of years he was a backup to Jordan Cameron in Cleveland, but never did I envision a coaching staff would give an 8th-year tight end his first chance to be "the guy" at the tight end position. Given the sheer amount of bad moves that Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer made, they can at least say they stumbled into a good one by committing to Barnidge.
In the first 7 years of Barnidge's career, he totaled 44 catches for 603 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 2015 alone, he caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and 9 touchdowns. A late-career surge like that is darn-near unprecedented, but I don't think it was a fluke. Barnidge's numbers might drop a little this season just by virtue of being in a different offensive system, but from a receiving standpoint, he's as reliable as they come. He signed an affordable three-year contract extension at the end of last year to keep him with the club through 2018. That gives the team plenty of breathing room to find/develop their tight end of the future while Barnidge remains atop the depth chart.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. SETH DEVALVE - ROOKIE BACKUP TIGHT END
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 245
Age: 23 | Experience: Rookie
Note: 4th round pick ... Viewed as a dynamic receiving threat who can play multiple positions ... Former wide receiver.
Out of 14 draft picks made this year, I think the Browns' most intriguing selection to watch this camp will be Seth DeValve. He's only 6-3, 245 lbs, so he doesn't have the height that your "Rob Gronkowski" or even your "Gary Barnidge" type of players have, but the team would love it if DeValve developed into even half as good of a receiver as those guys.
DeValve was a surprise coming out of the fourth round as, quite frankly, no one had really heard anything about him. A former receiver, I anticipate head coach Hue Jackson doing a lot of motions at the line of scrimmage with DeValve to try to create some mismatches on defense. The big question mark will be whether he can block well enough to the point where the team can shave two of the following three players off the roster by the time final cuts are named: Malcolm Johnson, Randall Telfer, and E.J. Bibbs. If the Browns operate from two-tight-end sets, somebody is going to need to have some blocking ability, and Barnidge has really only been an average-at-best blocker in his career.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. E.J. BIBBS - ELUSIVE BACKUP TIGHT END
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 258
Age: 24 | Experience: 2 years
College: Iowa State
Note: Was great at eluding defenders in last year's preseason ... Barely saw the field during the regular season despite being on 53-man roster.
When I look back at the 2015 season, another one of the things that Mike Pettine really screwed up was giving E.J. Bibbs a chance to shine.
If I can liken this to baseball for a second, Cleveland Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin had an outstanding, out-of-nowhere performance in spring training. Although the team took it a little slow with him at the start of the season, now he is a key contributor as a rookie on the major league roster.
Last year, Bibbs came in as an undrafted free agent and had a solid camp as a receiving tight end. He caught 7 passes for 54 yards in the preseason. Anyone who just looked at those stats in isolation would shrug and say, "what is the big deal?" If you watched each of those catches, though, I think Bibbs broke 2-3 tackles on each of them to gain extra yardage. He passed the eye test of displaying an uncanny asset of making people miss. When the regular season came, though, Pettine made Bibbs an inactive pretty much every week. He finished the season with 1 catch for 7 yards, which completely wasted a year's worth of potential experience for Bibbs. Keep in mind that this was on a team that needed more receiving threats after Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin.
Bibbs is going to have to impress the new coaching staff all over again in order to make the club. Besides being an elusive player with the ball in his hands, he'll need to be a better blocker, which is where his roster spot could be in jeopardy. If Barnidge and Seth DeValve are the top two tight ends as receiving threats, then the team's third tight end is going to have to be a blocking specialist. I think Bibbs also has an outside chance at competing for the fullback position with Malcolm Johnson -- that's something we should know more about during the first week of camp.
Final Roster Odds: 33%
Today's poll asks what you think DeValve's rookie season will look like in terms of receiving yards.